Showing posts with label cheap eats. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cheap eats. Show all posts

Al Mallah Dhiyafah (Dubai)


I truly believe restaurants don’t need to be fancy or expensive to serve delicious food. This proved to be true when I bit into one of Al Mallah Dhiyafah’s chicken shawarma (AED9). My eyes momentarily closed so I could really savor the delicious chewy pita filled with moist lightly-spiced chicken.


The soft pita was thin enough that the filling’s flavours really came through: nutty tahini with pickles and lettuce for a bit of texture. I immediately started thinking about ordering another one after that first bite… but, thankfully stopped myself as after getting through all the sides was thoroughly stuffed.


Did I regret having the fattoush salad (AED17), when I could have saved room for another meaty log? Not a chance, as the salad was a great way to balance out the otherwise carb and meat heavy meal. Having had fattoush a handful of times, Al Mallah’s is the best with small pieces of chopped lettuce and cucumbers tossed with herbs and really crispy thin fried pita. It was refreshingly citrusy.


I might have skipped the hommos (AED18), which while tasty, was really just well-pureed chickpeas with oil drizzled over top. There wasn’t any other ingredients – tahini, lemon, or even much salt – just a bowl of thick and earthy hummus. There was also a sense of guilt when having another pita as each one was wrapped in a plastic bag – hygienic, but not very environmentally friendly.


If that weren’t enough, there’s even a complimentary plate of pickled vegetables and chilies. They are really salty, so not necessarily the greatest to have plain, but tucked into some pita with the neutral hummus was pretty good.  



Sit (outside or inside) or even grab-and-go, there’s tons of options for dining at Al Mallah Dhiyafah. Just do yourself a favour and go and try one (or two) of their shawarmas.

Overall mark - 9 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
 Address: Al Dhiyafah Road (2 December Street)

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


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Buddhist Vegetarian Kitchen 佛海齋廚 (Toronto)


My first taste of Chinese vegetarian cuisine was from Buddhist Vegetarian Kitchen, a cozy casual restaurant tucked in a dated but nonetheless well-trafficked plaza in Scarborough. Things have changed: lunches were busier in my childhood, whereas on a recent visit there was no wait despite it being the weekend; and things were drenched in oil, while now they show restraint.

What stayed constant is their low prices and simple but satisfying dishes. Do not visit without getting a plate of the vegetarian “dim sum” (the small pictured for $4.50), which is deceiving as it’s not really the steamed dumplings synonymous with dim sum. Rather, they are pieces of gluten and tofu, prepared in different manners (braised, fried, steamed) and flavoured with various sauces (sweet soy, curry, sweet and sour) all served warm to munch on at the beginning of the meal. This is the “it dish” for the place. In fact, you’ll see many people visit just to get this as take out.


The stuffed bean curd skin ($4.50) was one of my favorite dishes, but sadly the recipe has changed. While they’re less oily, it’s now deep fried instead of pan fried so there’s no difference in texture on the wrapper (I loved having the contrasting crispy and silky bites of the past). The filling, which was hot and plentiful in the past, is now stingy and lacks all the different vegetables and fungus that gave it the interesting flavours.


Buddhist Vegetarian Kitchen’s soups are all a combination of bean curd, vegetable, corn and bamboo - the sweet corn soup with vegetable and bean curd ($4.50 for small) is one that offers three of the four ingredients. It’s a simple concoction made with a semi thick cream corn base with tons of tofu and bits of mushrooms mixed in. It’s tasty, but a few chopped green onions would help add some colour.


There seems to be a lot more noodles to choose from. The curry fried version with vegetarian pork ($8.95) is available wet or dry. We opted for wet, which wasn’t overly watery, but had enough sauce so that each strand had some slightly sweet curry sauce (sounds odd but actually works) covering it. Tossed well in the wok, it’s a dish that develops a great aroma.


The fried noodle with mixed vegetables ($9.25) is a traditional favourite, the crispy wonton noodles topped with a mix of vegetables (baby corn, snow peas), mushrooms, black fungus, and gluten pieces. The noodles have the perfect mix of crispy edges and a softer centre that soaks in the oyster sauce. They’re just as good as I remembered.


Stay away from the hot and sour noodles ($5.50), which were far too bland for a dish that’s meant to be punches of flavour – it was neither, spicy, sour, or even salty enough. The noodles were also soggy, making the dish a major flop even after we tried to salvage it with the condiments at the table.


It’s nice when a vegetarian restaurant offers simple vegetables as well. Their A choy with fermented tofu ($9.95) could be cooked a touch less so the stalks remain crispier, but they were well-flavoured without being too salty.


Service is definitely not their strongest feature, but it’s hardly the servers’ fault as they also act as prep cooks – de-stemming mushrooms, chopping vegetables, and cubing tofu… it’s all part of the job. So, at key points of the meal where you need to order or get the bill, just go find them or be patient.

Where servers do excel is knowing dishes well enough to offer their honest opinion. We tried to order the curry vegetarian pork with rice and she simply noted that we should reconsider as they don’t taste good together (despite it being an option). So, it was because of this frank advice we switched to noodles instead, which were a tasty combination.

Sadly, it’s not often I get to re-visit places I dined at as a child. But tucking into a plate of Buddhist Vegetarian Kitchen’s “dim sum” or noodles brings me back to the past. Whatever the restaurant lacks in with décor and service, it’s fully made up with the memories and the feeling of nostalgia. 

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3290 Midland Avenue

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:



The Buddhist Vegetarian Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Good Son (Toronto)


Have you’ve heard the positive sayings “look on the brighter side” and “things always happen for a reason”? Sometimes, they’re true. During a recent staycation, our outdoor day trip was dampened with rainy weather so we decided to stay in town and check out close by destinations. We first visited Oomomo (it’s definitely no Daisho) and then headed to the Shops of Don Mills down the street.

It just so happens, the newest outpost of The Good Son also opened at the Shops so we stopped by for dinner. It’s then we realize the food gods were looking down upon us. Firstly, we made it there in time for happy hour where all cocktails and draft beers are half off. Score! I wanted to try the Little Priest (normally $13) anyways. It’s a refreshing concoction that tastes like a lighter Long Island iced tea – while I couldn’t really taste the vermouth Amaro, it was a fitting spring drink.


Since it wasn’t a busy in the restaurant, we took our time with the meal, ordering appetizers to nibble on with the drinks. Of course, the burrata ($19) was soft and creamy, but The Good Son adds a bit of roasted garlic on top. While this may sound overpowering against the mild cheese, the roasted garlic provided mostly aroma versus bite and the balsamic reduction creates some sweetness. It’s a tasty burrata.


In the future, I’d stick with the Italian dishes and steer clear of the sea bream ceviche ($16). The fish became lost under all the avocado, pear (?), pomegranate, and tomatillo sauce so it tasted like eating chunky salsa versus ceviche. Plus, incorporating both pomegranate and pear in the dish made it too sweet and it lacked the chili bite I like with ceviche. On the bright side, the corn tortillas were tasty and abundant.


Regardless, the food gods continued to bless us. Wednesdays also means $10 pizza day! It would have been our choice anyways given The Good Son is known for their wood oven pizza… the large station in the corner certainly entices you to want to bite into the smoky pie.


Craving a hearty pizza, the capricciosa ($20) fit the bill with big chunks of mushrooms, mild sundried olives, artichokes, fior di latte, and layers of Prosciutto cotto. Understandably, under the weight of all the toppings, the pizza is impossible to pick up but the crust is well-toasted on the bottom so it’s not mushy either. If only they left off the balsamic with the mushrooms – don’t sneak a sweet and savoury combination on me please!

Normally, I likely would have ordered the spicy sopressata ($21). Simply adorned with slices of cured meat and little chunks of Anaheim chili strewn throughout for a manageable heat.



In the end, the rain did not put a damper on the day and we ended up saving quite a bit on dinner. But as a good customer, just remember to tip a higher percentage. The restaurant workers are doing the same work, even though you’re saving a bundle. 

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 11 Karl Fraser Road (in Shop of Don Mills)

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


Is That It? I Want More!

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Garleek Kitchen (Toronto)

Garleek Kitchen momos

If you like intimate family run restaurants, Garleek Kitchen will definitely provide that cozy experience. The dining room consists of less than ten tables, and on a weekday visit, the entire operations was run by a single person - quite a feat to be host, waiter, and chef. To keep things simple, their menu is displayed on a television and cutlery & key condiments are found on the table.

Meanwhile, most of the time, the proprietor is in the kitchen, making everything to order including the momos. These dumplings are the delicious pouches I remember most from past Tibetan meals. With the option to steam, pan fry, or deep fry the dumplings, we tried them two ways – pan-fried and steamed  

The chicken pan-fried momos ($8.99) definitely hit the spot. The toasted crust adding a nice contrast compared to the soft top of the dumpling. While the nub in the middle of the dough was a bit too thick, the white meat chicken filling was juicy and savoury. So good the spicy dipping sauces weren’t even required.


They were needed for the steam vegetables momo ($7.99). While the chunky chili sauce added heat and extra flavour, the dumplings could still use more salt. Nevertheless, the filling consisted of an interesting combination of vegetables, which Garleek should consider leaving some less cooked (everything was rather soft) so the texture will vary.


Nepalese chicken chow mein ($8.50) is made from thin chewy noodles cooked on a hot flattop so it develops a crust on some strands. Like Cantonese chow mein, there are the crispy and soft bits within the plate, but Garleek’s is less oily and isn’t topped with sauce allowing the noodles to remain crunchy. I loved the aromatic wok hay of the dish, but the chicken needs less time on the grill as it was overdone and dry.

Garleek Kitchen chicken chow mein Toronto

Despite running with only one person, Garleek provides attentive service. Along with the noodles, the chef brought out a chilled bottle of hot sauce and warned that it was “crazy spicy” – heed the warning but you’ll want to try some anyways. He also checked on us at regular intervals and was around when something was required. This warm intimate experience is what makes dining at small proprietors a great event.


Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1500 Queen Street West

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:


Garleek Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Crown Jewel Fine Dining for dim sum 御膳豪庭 (Toronto)


For as long as I can remember, weekends were a time for gathering family members (whether it be one other person or the entire 20 member gang) for dim sum. The meal consisted of varied bite-sized  dishes and desserts weren’t reserved as the last bites… eat it first, who cares!

As I’ve grown, dim sum has changed from a weekly to bi-weekly affair, but acting as the conduit for gathering family members, that hasn’t changed. How dim sum is enjoyed has morphed - lunch used to take longer as you waited for the must have dishes to be wheeled from carts to your table. With the exception of one or two restaurants, everyone has moved to the ordering method so waiting and surprises are things of the past.

To be fair, I don’t mind the transition, made-to-order food is hotter and fresher. You also rarely leave disappointed. Crown Jewel Fine Dining offers a decent selection at competitive prices: S for $3.50, M for $4.50, and L for $5.50, but on non-holidays if you order before 11am, S-L dishes will be $3.50.

Where Crown differs is the size of their dim sum. Their steamed shrimp dumpling har gow (L) and steamed shrimp & pork dumpling siu mai (L), are huge and about 50% larger than other restaurants while the taste is still relatively consistent.


Some dumplings could use more seasoning. The steamed vegetable dumpling (L) is a great vegetarian option containing snow pea shoots and prince mushroom slivers, but desperately needs salt. Similarly, the seafood dumpling in soup (L) is fairly bland despite containing chunky portions of various seafood and mushroom.


I’m glad restaurants are starting to offer more vegetarian options. A pumpkin congee with chestnut and corn (L) seems to grace most menus and truthfully is quite delicious. At Crown, they leave some pumpkin pieces strewn throughout the congee so it ends up having more texture and bite. The chestnuts also make the congee savoury.


If you prefer your congee with meat, the traditional pork and preserved egg (L) is available. At Crown, the pork is shredded rather than diced, which may make it easier for some to eat.


Of course, there are a host of other family favourites including steamed beef balls with vegetables (S), which were a little dense for my taste; silky steamed BBQ rice rolls (M) that had me reaching for seconds; and flavourful steamed curry cuttlefish (M), although the quality varies depending on the visit.


What surprised me the most were their buns, something I normally don’t order but in a large family setting someone’s bound to want. The Crown Jewel BBQ pork buns (L) have a slightly sweet crust and is stuffed with chunky pieces of BBQ pork – they’re similar to the ones you’ll find at Hong Kong’s Tim Ho Wan. These are now a must-order dish for me. 



The steamed lau sha custard buns (M) were also tasty, the fluid milky egg custard specked with pieces of salty egg yolk so it added a bit of saltiness without becoming overboard.


The deep fried shrimp spring rolls (L) arrive with a beautiful fried lattice on the bottom. However, the filling had little to no shrimp and instead tons of pork and a fragrant herb that I can’t identify.


Larger tables may want to “splurge” for an order of the clay pot rice ($8.80). It’s at least two times the size of what you’d find elsewhere and a bit of rice helps settle the stomach after the heavier proteins. There’s three versions to choose from but the ground chicken and octopus patty is one that’s generally not found elsewhere.


With so many of the dishes being larger than competitors, the mango pudding (M) was shockingly sparse with two palm sized gold fish in the order. The Chinese description also notes it arrives with ice cream - in reality it’s canned whipped cream, but admittedly an improvement over evaporated milk.


Not all desserts were small. Crown certainly doesn’t skimp on the beans in their clear red bean jelly (M); the dessert was bricks of soft beans solidified in a lightly sweetened jelly. The coffee and cream jelly (M) was also a sizeable portion and had a hefty kick of coffee flavours.


If you need an excuse to gather a group, why not look into trying dim sum? There’s tons of options and doesn’t cost much to try something new. My family has been doing it for decades.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 325 Bamburgh Circle

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:



Crown Jewel Fine Dining Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kub Khao Thai Eatery for lunch (Toronto)


It’s surprising how many people know about Kub Khao Thai Eatery in spite of its location hidden behind a gas station. It’s the original place, in Scarborough, to get authentic Thai food.

Their quick lunch specials, served from 11am to 4pm (including weekends), offers great value with six mains accompanied with crispy wontons and a choice of tom yum soup or mango salad. The crispy wontons are filled with a pork and arrives with a sweet chili sauce. Little two bite nuggets that are great for tiding you over until the mains arrive.


The tom yum is fairly large and in the traditional spicy and sour broth are tons of fresh Shanghai bok choy and napa cabbage so you’re eating a full serving of vegetables right at the start. Kub Khao certainly doesn’t skimp on fresh produce – their mango salad has the customary julienned bell pepper and red onion, but is further enhanced with crunchy carrots and refreshing mint and coriander.

A popular order is their pad Thai chicken ($9.95), the rice noodles getting plenty of wok hay and tossed with bean sprouts, tofu, scrambled egg, and chives in a tamarind sauce that has a nicely balanced sourness. I love the finely ground peanuts, which melds into the noodles rather than being large pieces you need to chew through.


The pad karee shrimp ($11.95) is fiery red. Dig to the bottom of the bowl and you’ll get the little pieces of chili to match – thankfully, the coconut milk calms down the heat. While there aren’t tons of shrimp, there is plenty of flavourful curry to spoon over steamed rice. I just wished there were more vegetables in the dish.  


Four “street lunch” options aren’t accompanied by the wonton and starters but is a full-sized main. The chicken noodle curry’s ($11.95) broth was a khao soi and green curry love child. The bowl arrives brimming with ingredients including bell peppers, bean sprouts, eggplant, green beans, bamboo shoot, and onion, a refreshing bite against the rich spicy soup. A bit of pickled cabbage adds an unexpected tanginess and along with all the protein (chicken and a hard-boiled egg) makes a filling lunch.


If there was a best service station restaurant award, in my books, Kub Khao is the winner.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3561 Sheppard Avenue East
 Website: http://kubkhao.ca/

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this: